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Dorothy Brown Soper
We Are Akan, Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest - Ghana, 1807 -
Synopsis We Are Akan, Our People and Our Kingdom in the Rainforest - Ghana, 1807 by Dorothy Brown Soper In a richly illustrated story set in the Asante Kingdom of 1807, Kwame, Kwaku, and Baako strive to become leaders in the Akan culture. They farm, learn spear throwing, take part in ceremonies and dances, and listen to stories while gaining an understanding of the rainforest and its animals. In the capital city to see the king and the Golden Stool and take part in the yam festival, the boys encounter the wider kingdom: fine crafts, livestock, foreign people and books, and witness the sale of prisoners as slaves. Kwaku cares for a leopard cub that the king wants returned to the forest. Traveling to the coast, Kwame and Baako are kidnapped and threatened with sale as slaves. The Asante Kingdom faces rebellion and the decline of its role in the Atlantic slave trade. Change will come. Kwame, Kwaku, and Baako balance the life they know with new possibilities for their future. The novel reveals the complexities of an accomplished culture and a powerful kingdom that included domestic slavery while supplying prisoners to the Atlantic slave trade. Through this trade there is a strong historical connection between the Akan and American people.
Offering up a historical adventure featuring African culture and the Akan tribe in the Asante Kingdom, Soper’s debut middle reader follows the circuitous lives of three young boys: Kwame, the chief's son; Kwaku, the chief’s heir; and Baako, a slave hoping to earn his freedom. Friends from a young age, though individually different and on divergent paths, the boys experience life lessons together and find themselves in dire situations that they must escape. Peppered with beautiful illustrations, and offering history and knowledge of the Akan clans, Soper weaves a powerful coming of age story set against a rich display of African culture.

Engaging characters will keep young readers involved, and Soper’s use of the native tongue, Twi, lends authenticity to the story as We Are Akan touches on the history of the Akan tribe leading up to and during the Atlantic Slave Trade and the voyages that originally carried African people to North America. Opening chapters deliver a crash course on the class system, the commerce industry, and the daily lives of the Akan people, with absorbing specifics like the spearing of a cobra and the “smoked fish that he carried wrapped in a leaf on top of a flat rock.”

At the end of the book, Soper includes a more thorough “Introduction to the Akan People,” covering, among other topics, their deep-seated extended family structure and formidable army. For readers not already well-versed in the Akan culture, this might have proven more helpful at the start. James Cloutier’s illustrations offer snapshots of daily Akan life, including acts such as pounding fufu (a well-known African dish) and the “Descent of the Golden Stool,” a festival ritual honoring Akan legend.This story’s action-packed, educational style will resonate with readers of all ages looking to gain knowledge of African history and charm those seeking a narrative that features diverse history and characters.

Takeaway: This richly historical African adventure will entertain and inform young readers and their parents.

Great for fans of: Kwame Mbalia's Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky, Beverley Naidoo’s Burn My Heart.

Production grades
Cover: C
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A+
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A